A forklift operator killed on the job earlier this month had decades of experience and was safety-minded when it came to his work, according to his family.
Phillip Vargas, 54, was killed on Jan. 3 in an industrial accident at the 10th Street Terminal in Barrio Logan. According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner, Vargas was operating a forklift when he struck a cement pillar and fell out of the forklift. The forklift continued to move, running over Vargas. He died at the scene.
Vargas’ family says he was a third-generation longshoreman who worked on the waterfront since the age of 16.
“Everyone loved him that met him. He was always joking, always happy. It was impossible to be in a bad mood around Phillip. He wouldn’t allow it,” said his wife, Heather Vargas.
Vargas’ family said safety on the job was important to him. He was a heavy lift operator and instructor, who would have a copy of safety manuals in the bathroom.
Thus, the deadly accident came as a shock to his loved ones.
“It was heartbreaking, unbelievable, the most incredible pain you could ever feel in your life. It’s still not real, it’s so raw,” said Kristina Garcia, Vargas’ daughter.
Even more heartbreaking for the family, is the Vargas’ had just moved into a new home five months prior to the day of the accident.
Heather is worried how a new mortgage and mounting expenses will be covered while insurance matters are reconciled.
“This was his dream. This is his dream. I can feel him here with me,” she added.
Heather is a member of the San Diego Roller Dolls roller derby team. Her teammates and friends, as well as the local longshoreman community have come together to help raise money for the family.
They’re collecting donations via this GoFundMePage.
Meanwhile, a celebration of life is planned for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Longshoreman's Union Hall located at 1000 Bay Marina Drive in National City.